Finally, the controversial breeding of tigers at a Buddhist Temple at Thailand has come to an end with the Wildlife authorities in Thailand removing tigers from the Buddhist temple, after accusations of wildlife trafficking and animal abuse.
The Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination, had for years resisted the efforts of the official to take away the animals.
The Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, has more than 100 tigers. It had become a tourist destination where visitors took selfies with tigers and bottle-feed their cubs.
In February 2015, a raid at the temple had revealed jackals, hornbills and Asian bears were being kept at the sanctuary without the necessary official permits.
Monks at the temple have been accused of illegally breeding tigers and animal trafficking.
The 1,000-personnel operation to remove the animals will last all week.
“We have a court warrant this time, unlike previous times when we only asked for the temple’s co-operation, which did not work,” Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks told AFP.
Three of the 137 tigers at the temple in Kanchanaburi province were moved on Monday. The tigers are being taken to animal refuges, authorities said.
The monks resisted the official action first but gave in when presented with a court order.
The temple had been promoting itself as a wildlife sanctuary for many years.
Visitors at the temple were able to feed the animals and take photographs for a fee, despite the temple being banned from charging admission fees or money.
Wildlife activists had accused the monks of illegally breeding the tigers and also of illegal trafficking of animals. Some visitors had alleged that the tigers appeared drugged.
However, the temple had denied the accusations.
The officials have been trying to bring the tigers under state control since 2001.
Adisorn Nuchdamrong, the deputy director general of the department of national parks, said the team had been able to get the warrant to confiscate the animals a few hours before the operation.
Adisorn Nuchdamrong told Reuters Monday,
“International pressure concerning illegal wildlife trafficking is also part of why we’re acting now.”
Officials from the department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation said they planned to confiscate and remove more tigers from the temple on Tuesday.
Previous attempts to inspect the tigers have largely been thwarted by the temple’s abbots, but in January and February wildlife officials removed 10 of the animals.
Thailand is a hub of illegal trafficking of wildlife and forest products, including ivory, exotic birds, mammals and reptiles.
The government introduced animal welfare laws in 2015 aimed at curbing animal abuse.
The New York Times in May had reported that the tiger attraction at the temple earns $3 million a year in ticket revenue, while government officials say it brings in $5.7 million.